A Birthday to Remember: Mozart at Puycelsi

Puycelsi – figures on church

Yesterday, I had one of my best birthdays ever. The SF and I sang in a performance of Mozart’s Requiem in the church at the spectacular fortified village of Puycelsi in the Tarn Département.

Eglise Saint-Corneille

This concert is an annual event in aid of the church restoration fund. L’église Sainte-Corneille was built in the 14th-15th centuries and contains some magnificent wall and ceiling paintings. For the first few years, the choir sang excerpts from Handel’s Messiah but branched out a couple of years ago to sing different works.

This was the first time that we had sung in the Puycelsi concert, although a number of our friends have done so regularly. Seventy of us (French, British, Dutch, Polish, Swedish and Belgian), including four soloists, came together for the weekend to rehearse this difficult piece. I had sung it before, which was a distinct advantage, even if it was a long time ago. Even so, we and our local friends got together for a couple of pre-rehearsals over the previous month to give us a head start.

Church ceiling detail

We had four hours of rehearsals on Saturday and the same on Sunday, punctuated by a delicious lunch and afternoon tea. The conductor, Mark Opstad, is a talented musician who plays several instruments and is Professor of Choral Music at the Conservatoire de Toulouse. He doesn’t take prisoners and homed in on our weaknesses with unerring accuracy. We learned a lot from his direction. As accompanist on the organ, we were lucky to have Nick O’Neill, whose flawless playing and understanding of how choirs work were a great help.

Puycelsi – church interior

Despite Mark’s efforts, some knotty bits remained. As always, though, the adrenaline somehow got us through those during the performance. The church was packed, the tickets having been sold out the previous week. Lots of people we know came. Judging by the audience reaction, it was a great success, we got a standing ovation and did an encore. It was over all too quickly.

How much would you bet that three people out of 70 would have their birthday on the same day? My maths isn’t good enough to work out the odds but they must be pretty long. Anyway, the tearoom resonated three times to the strains of “Bon Anniversaire”, belted out by some powerful voices. I hope the other two enjoyed their birthday as much as I did.

Puycelsi itself is worth its own post, so watch this space.

Copyright © 2012 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. Well done, Vanessa, only sorry I couldn’t be there singing too. Hopefully next time…. Belated happy birthday, and keep the tennis court warm for me!!!! Love, Di


  2. A belated Bonne Anniversaire! Sounds as if your concert was a roaring success. You all must have powerful voices to practice that many hours and still be able to perform. Wish Puycelsi weren’t so far from me; I would have loved to hear you all sing!


    • Thanks, Evelyn. I was pretty hoarse yesterday morning, the day after the concert! It is a bit far from you, I know, but I think you’d love Puycelsi. I’ll do a post about the place soon so you can see some photos of it.


  3. Wow, Vanessa, a birthday to remember. I am curious to know whether the seventy choir members are all expats living in your orner of France. Music is such a wondful thing – the local expat choir here is what keeps Willie sane…


    • About 25 of the 70 were French while the rest were probably expats living in the general region. We didn’t really have much time to get to know the others. About 16 from our own Parisot choir here sang.


    • You’d better be back next year – I forbid anything else. You were brilliant. Your professionalism meant a lot to us. I can’t thank you enough.


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